Cairo weighs providing all Gaza's power

Energy official says plan would see Palestinians receive all of required 240 megawatts from Egypt.

Gaza power station 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza power station 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
Egypt is working on a plan with the Palestinians to supply all the besieged Gaza Strip's electricity needs and wean off its reliance on Israel for power, an Egyptian energy official said Thursday. Under the plan, Egypt - which already supplies a small part of Gaza's electricity - would increase the number of power lines linking it to Gaza and provide Palestinians with some 250 megawatts, said Izzat Ibrahim, a senior official of Sinai's National Electricity Power Co. "This capacity is considered as an alternative power for that Israel used to supply," Ibrahim said. He said Egypt's Electricity Ministry was preparing a study with the Palestinian Authority on financing the project and providing equipment to Gaza. The project would take at least six months to implement, he said, though he could not say when it would start. An official at the ministry confirmed that Egypt was exploring means of providing all of Gaza's electricity needs. The official would not give a time-frame for the project. Gaza, controlled since June 2007 by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's rival Hamas, currently receives most of its power from Israel. Its dependence has been highlighted by fuel and power restrictions imposed by Israel last month to put economic pressure on Hamas. The sanctions are a response to repeated rocket attacks launched by Gaza terrorists. Ten of the 17 power lines supplying Gaza currently come from Israel, five from a local power plant and two from Egypt. Gaza's consumption increases by about 10 percent a year, and the strip currently needs about 240 megawatts. The chief of Abbas' Palestinian Energy Authority said Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority hoped to connect more areas of the Gaza Strip to the Egyptian grid. The official, Omar Qattaneh, said the authority has secured financing from the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia for the US$32 million project. He said bids would be published in the coming days, and the project could be completed in 12 to 18 months. The proposal would bolster Abbas's claim to represent Gaza. Abbas now rules from the West Bank and wields little control over the Hamas-held Gaza. Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu also praised the plan, despite the lingering tensions with Abbas's government. "We welcome any project that links us to our Arab brothers and ends our relations with the occupation," he said, referring to Israel. Hamas officials had also raised the idea of boosting power supplies to Gaza with Egypt, he said. On Wednesday, Jordan began supplying electricity to the town of Jericho in the West Bank for the first time since Israel conquered the territory during the 1967 Six Day War. Israel has provided power to the West Bank since then.